Barbie Oscar snub is about more than feminism

Margot Robbie's character in Barbie sheds a tear next to an Oscar statue on a pink background

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

When the 2024 Oscars awards ceremony airs on March 10, millions will tune in to see which films bring home the coveted trophies. This year’s show has already attracted some controversy, with critics saying that “Barbie” lost nominations due to engrained sexism within the Academy. But is the alleged “snub” more complex than that?

“Barbie” received eight Oscar nominations in total, including being nominated for Best Picture, Costume Design and Production Design. While eight nominations is deeply respectable, many were quick to point out what they perceived as inconsistencies in the nominations.

In particular, “Barbie” fans noted that the film was nominated for Best Picture, but its director Greta Gerwig did not receive a Best Director nomination. Additionally, the film’s main actress, Margot Robbie, was not nominated for Best Actress.

To further rub salt in the wound, the film’s male lead, Ryan Gosling, received a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Gosling being nominated instead of Robbie is especially ironic considering that his character in “Barbie” briefly took over Robbie’s character’s home after becoming obsessed with the concept of “The Patriarchy.”

On its surface, the situation seems like a classic example of sexism: A man with a lesser part overshadows the two women who put their blood, sweat and tears into the film. But the reality might be a bit more complex.

Every year, the Oscars nominates ten films for its “Best Picture” category. In contrast, they only choose five nominees for “Best Director.” As harsh as it may seem, this means that five people who directed films nominated for Best Picture are likely to get chosen for the Best Director category.

For example, consider that none of the directors for Dune, Top Gun: Maverick or Avatar 2 were nominated for Best Director in 2022. All three films did extremely well both critically and commercially, as well as receiving Best Film nominations. When it comes to Best Director, the odds are stacked against you to a degree.

And while Gosling being nominated over Robbie may look bad, the truth is that both of them were competing in vastly different categories.

The Best Actress category included some absolutely stunning performances, including Lily Gladstone becoming the first ever Native American to receive the Best Actress nomination. To put it mildly, Robbie had some stiff competition and just barely lost out to some deeply talented actresses.

While Best Supporting Actor also had some impressive showings, the category doesn’t bear nearly as much weight as Best Actress or Best Actor. The category tends to be for actors who didn’t carry the film but still put on a notable performance that left an impression on audiences.

Gosling fits the bill perfectly for this nomination, as does “Barbie” actress America Ferrera, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Ferrera stole the show with her heartfelt portrayal of a mother trying her best, and her nomination has unfortunately been overshadowed by discussions about Robbie and Gerwig’s snubs.

To be sure, racism and sexism within the Academy Awards should absolutely be discussed. After all, there have still only been eight women nominated for Best Director in history, and Academy voters are still 81% white and 67% men.

These voters can very much be out of touch with general audiences, and they deserve to be pressured so that women and POC get a fair chance at winning awards. Notably, Greta Lee and Celine Song of “Past Lives” were also passed over for Best Actress and Best Director, and barely any notable media has covered their snubs.

But sometimes talented people just lose to other talented people, and remaining fixated on these losses runs the risk of taking focus away from nominees that deserve to be celebrated.

To name just a few: Justine Triet, Sandra Huller, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Kiyoko Shibuya were all nominated for the first time this year. Their accomplishments in acting and directing were monumental, and they should not be buried under controversy surrounding a film that’s well recognized already.

No matter what happens, Robbie and Gerwig will get their recognition. They’re both already nominated as a producer and screenwriter, respectively on “Barbie” as is.

But if the only thing you take away from this year’s Academy Awards is “Barbie got snubbed” you might just be missing out on the work of some other incredible women.

Malachi Key is a Journalism senior who can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment